Revitalizing our neighborhoods is important because…
Neighborhoods are the lifeblood of our community. They’re where life happens; where we share experiences; where we rest, relax, exercise, and grow. Neighborhoods are where people interact most naturally and most regularly. When we enliven a neighborhood, we enliven our entire community.
Below are three important tasks we will undertake to begin Revitalizing our Neighborhoods.
1. Create neighborhood associations.
Neighborhoods take their identities from the people who live, work, and have an interest in the neighborhood area. Those people own the role of ensuring the vitality, safety, and health of those neighborhoods. While Lincoln has unofficial neighborhoods scattered across the community, we need to be more intentional about encouraging the residents of each area to take more actively participate in the destiny of their own neighborhoods.
One way to do that is to encourage the creation of neighborhood associations. A neighborhood association is simply a group of neighbors who get together, share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, and work cooperatively to make their neighborhood a better place to live. Neighborhood associations can help identify challenges and concerns, share information, plan and carry out improvements efforts, help resolve conflicts, and find resources to make the neighborhood a better place to live.
Revitalization of our neighborhoods needs to be directed by the people who live there, and neighborhood associations are a great vehicle shape, guide, and execute improvements.
2. Target investments in our neighborhoods for the greatest impact.
In these challenging economic times there is never enough funding to complete all the projects that are needed. That’s one reason why the City recently created a five-year capital improvements plan to prioritize our investments in City streets and sidewalks. We needed to assess the condition of each roadway and identify those most in need of repair and replacement.
With this streets and sidewalks plan in place we know the roadways that will receive improvements into the near future. In order to leverage these investments in infrastructure to the greatest benefit of our neighborhoods, we need to coordinate other investments along the same timeline. We can spur neighborhood revitalization when street improvements are done in conjunction with code enforcement efforts (including the demolition of dilapidated properties), fire and police outreach efforts, and sewer enhancements. The City needs to synchronize all of its efforts with the capital improvements plan to have a more impactful result in each neighborhood.
3. Rejuvenate neighborhood parks based on neighborhood input and direction.
Several common elements make up what we usually define as a park: grass, trees, open spaces, benches, play equipment, etc. Lincoln has several neighborhood parks that contain some or all of these common elements and that we would define as a park: Allison Park, Melrose Park, Postville Park, Ray White Park, Exchange Club Park, and Lehn & Fink Park.
Parks, though, can become more than parks and can assume important and widespread roles for communities when they:
- Play an integral role in the life of neighborhoods and the people who live in those neighborhoods;
- Provide a sense of community for everyone who utilizes the parks; and
- Serve as the impetus to revitalize the neighborhoods in which they are located.
We are fortunate that our neighborhood parks have been established, but many have grown tired and no longer play an integral role in their neighborhoods. Each of our neighborhood parks needs to have a focus, one drawn from the character of its neighborhood and identified and championed by its neighborhood residents.
Each of our neighborhood parks needs to be assessed based on its current usage, its assets in place, and its neighborhood needs. With an assessment in place we then need to create workable and cost-effective plans for each park that are directed towards each neighborhood, but coordinated across the City. With those plans in place we can then execute the improvements using City, private, and volunteer resources in order to rejuvenate the neighborhood itself.